In his own words, 29-year-old producer Djay Cas, who has worked with Ice Cube, Nipsey Hussle and Giggs, among others, shares the backstory behind his recent beat placement on Jeezy's 'Pressure,' a journey seven years in the making.
In late 2010, early 2011, I was living in Charleston, SC. At the time, DJ Folk, Jeezy's former A&R, was sending my beats to Jeezy, most notably the record that would become "Bag Music."
"If you ever got out here to Atlanta, Jeezy's been asking to get in the studio with you," he told me.
The first call I made was to my boy Ryan, who stopped what he was doing to drive me down.
I found Jeezy to be surprisingly down to earth. He told me he loved my sound, specifically my remakes, and asked if I would like to produce an entire album for him and his new artists. In his words—and you don't forget stuff like this—I would be "the Dr. Dre to his N.W.A."
Imagine your favorite artist asking if it's okay that he only raps over your beats for his next project. I'd been working on getting to this moment since I heard his I Am The Street Dream mixtape in 2006.
Immediately, I got to work on a project we loosely dubbed Ryder Muzik. It was 12 tracks hard soul music. Beats that were smooth but still banged. I had a vision for the album. I loved "I Got This," produced by Beewirks, and the Trappin' Ain't Dead mixtape. I also loved "Mr. 17.5" and "Air Forces 2," though, so you know where I was steering the production.
Based on the work I was doing with Jeezy while I was in Atlanta, EMI took a meeting with me and decided to fer me a publishing deal. But we couldn't agree on the numbers. Since my focus was finishing this project for Jeezy, though, we tabled the negotiations.
During one my sessions with Jeezy, a beat from another producer was played by accident. Within 20 seconds, Jeezy, Boo Rossini and a writer I was working with named Saizarr came up with a hook. They were in a cypher just freestyling. Jeezy loved the track, but he stopped to ask me if I was OK with another producer being a part the project I was supposed to produce solo.
What am I going to say? No?
This guy just brought in lobsters and Ciroc for us. Plus, it was some fire production by my brothers, The Olympicks. I thought, "We can all win." And besides, 12 tracks out 13 ain't so bad in my book.
Before heading home to Charleston, Midnight Black shook my hand and told me I had some JOINTS. I left Atlanta feeling like the man.
Fast forward a few months and the publishing deal I had in the works with EMI fell through because, to my surprise, none the records I produced for the album with Jeezy were going to see the light day.
Now it's June 2011. I did a beat that caught the attention Chase N Cashe, who I had met at Universal that summer. He told me he was planning to get Drake on the record as a feature. Days later, Chase calls me and says Drake wants specific changes done to the beat and that it's now going to be a Drake single featuring Chase. It's becoming more real. I feel like I'm finally going to land a major album placement with one the biggest artists out. At this point, Universal is actually calling ME, not vice versa. I can't explain the feeling.
Of course, a couple months passed and nothing happened. Drake's song, just like my Ryder Muzik project with Jeezy, becomes buried on someone's studio hard drive. Now I'm sick. The phone stops ringing. Universal even hit me with the "New phone who dis?"
In the meantime, I did a track with Yung Fokus on WC's album. They paid us for the beat, however, due to a "clerical error," we didn't get credited. Together, we also scored a placement on Glasses Malone's album ("Kickstand") but Universal Republic never paid us.
One day, DJ Folk calls. He tells me to keep submitting new material to Jeezy. He says Jeezy has recorded several records to my beats but not to become bitter over the constant disappointment. And he was right. Unfortunately, around the same time, my dad suffered three strokes and heart failure. I didn't have time to sit around for six months only to find out my records weren't making an album.
I was impatient, and I wanted major success, but thankfully, Folk, my lawyer, Ben Cline, and Chris Jones at Atlantic kept me from signing any stupid deals that I would've regretted. Instead, I took work with several indies just to pay the bills. Nothing life-changing, but I did land some placements on TV shows. I also did A LOT ghost production.
In 2015, one week before he released Church in These Streets, Jeezy put out a video for "Talking," a song I produced f his Trap Or Die 2 mixtape... in 2010. He told me it was one his favorites, but mixtape favorites don't pay bills like album placements.
Around the same time, veteran producer Honorable C.N.O.T.E., who at this point I've known for years and whose work ethic has always been inspiring, recognized my work and asked me if I wanted a spot in his new production group, Honorable Court. It was a no-brainer.
He told me 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne were working on a joint project (Collegrove) and that they had a record that needed a beat replacement. I've never submitted so many remixes for one song in my life. For one remix, I touched up an old record that Jeezy had told me he loved during the Ryder Muzik sessions to fit the new beat. We called it the "Collegrove" beat.
They passed... on every remixed version the beat I sent them. And when the project was released in March 2016, the song wasn't even on it.
I figured, maybe Jeezy is feeling nostalgic. Why not jog his memory? So I sent him the "Collegrove" beat.
While I waited for a response, I started working with an independent rapper named DJ Luke Nasty. Luckily, I was able to use the advance money to move to Atlanta that November.
As soon as I touched down, I was back to work. Hitting studios, checking in with C.N.O.T.E., Folk, etc. It felt fun again. Two months later, it's now January 2017, Folk sends me a message that I "got one" with Jeezy, but that he wants DJ Toomp to make some changes to the "Collegrove" beat that I had sent him 10 months earlier. He wrote it like "You have no problem with this, right?" so it was sort a question but more like a suggestion.
I knew exactly how he wanted me to answer.
I said, "NO PROBLEM." I couldn't imagine DJ Toomp having 13 his tracks shelved.
Five months pass. Nothing. During this time, I'm making regular car trips from Atlanta to Miami to visit my sister who is in the hospital because she's experiencing terrible headaches and her doctors cannot figure out why. Finally, Folk calls me and says that they found our old Ryder Muzik sessions and that my "Collegrove" beat would be used for another non-album project. Of course, I am happy with a placement, but, I thought, "Another mixtape?"
On June 16, I found out that my sister had stage four brain cancer. Her health was rapidly deteriorating. During a heated argument with my family about the best course action for her care, my phone rings. It's Folk. "You on Jeezy album, bro," he says.
The last thing on my mind at that moment was an album placement. The news was bittersweet. Four months later, in October, my sister passed.
By the time the album dropped in December, it was like a sigh relief. It's one thing when the artist doesn't like your beats. You just move on. When a song exists and you've been hearing about it for years, it's frustrating. Finally, after seven years, people would hear my work with Jeezy—work that I began in 2010.
Jeezy's new album, Pressure, is the same soulful music with an edge I was trying to bring to the world in 2011. While other (very talented) producers contributed, this was my vision come to life. This is the type production I wanted to hear Jeezy on for over a decade. Credit to DJ Folk for making it all happen. He saw Ryder Muzik come to fruition and made sure I was a part it.
I only landed one placement ("Valet Interlude"), but I'll take it. One track out 13 is better than none.